If you look up the definition of “geek” on the internet, you’ll find a very wide range of descriptions. Merriam Webster went as far as defining it as “a person who is socially awkward and unpopular.”
It’s fair to say I disagreed with that particular definition… and with good reason.
Let’s take a moment to be realistic here. Simply look around and you’ll see that geek culture is thriving. If you don’t believe me, take a quick look at a few facts:
- Lootcrate has over 200,000 subscribers to its’ $20 per month service.
- New York Comic Con was attended by 151, 000 people in 2014.
- Brian Mariotti told Rolling Stone in November (2014) that his company made 28 million dollars in profits off of Funko Pop Figures alone.
- Shows like “Talking Dead” are taking the “water cooler” conversation to a new level on both your television and social media.
- The largest statistical group of (video) gamers is 35 and older.
You can also run (from) zombies in a zombie themed 5k (for charity, of course).
Has there really been such a shift that it’s “cool” to be a geek, though? Casie Shimansky offered an unique perspective to that question.
“Being a geek was always a cool thing to be, and now there’s a nostalgia factor to those entities that we grew up with. There is a legitimate community here where people feel appreciated for their passions – that’s a huge reason you see geeks on the move. They’re CONNECTING with one another in ways they might not have been able to even 10 years ago and through the powers that be of blogging, podcasting, and social media you’re seeing us come together more.”
The ability to connect has played a huge role in the mobilization of the geek community. In the past, there were web forums. These spaces have turned into Facebook groups, where like-minded fans are able to swap comics or collectibles.
These same groups are making a large impact on the industry itself – especially local businesses like Carmine Street Comics in New York City. The store’s owner, Jon Gorga, has seen the shift taking place:
“I think it’s been a lot more gradual than the last couple of years. The (Funko) Pops are being sold at Barnes and Nobles, Seven Elevens and Targets. Obviously, this poses a challenge for a smaller store like us, but that means that this stuff is in a different place in the public eye.”
Jon added, “I also think the movies (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is creating a sense of what we in the comics industry have always loved.” The popular film series’ latest film, Age of Ultron, has made over one-billion dollars in revenue to this point. There’s a good reason for that as well, which Dan Casey, Senior Editor at Nerdist.com, puts eloquently:
“The geeks grew up and now they’re spending their money on what interests them. Ever since the pop culture boom kickstarted by Star Wars and Star Trek in the late 1970s, we’ve seen generations of consumers with decidedly nerdier tastes. As people start families later and later in life — or not at all — they are left with more disposable income to spend on whatever earthly pleasures float their boat.
With things like Marvel Comics and Star Wars as a through-line connecting generations, not only does that mean we’re ensuring there will be more nerds in the future, but it’s giving people from all demographics reason to vote with their dollars at the box office and at stores.”
I’d invite you to recall the harsh definition I shared earlier, and I think you’ll see why it’s easy to disagree with it. The debate many would hold at this point is how many people are truly geeks and have an understanding of the deep history in many of the world’s referenced.
After all, the deep history of storylines within comic books goes back for sometime. I’d argue a new breed of geek is being born – just as Dan suggests – as parents pass on their interests and passions to their children in an age when you don’t get a weird look when you tell someone you’re going to the comic shop.
The power of social media and television have helped grow this interest and should be commended accordingly. One thing is clear to me, however, is Merriam Webster really needs to update its definition of geek. While we’re at it, let’s make sure “cool” is in the thesaurus next to “geek.”
He is currently a contributor to Millennial CEO and NEPA Blog Con. His favorite job and privilege is his role as father and husband.
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